Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told MEPs that Europe needs to steady itself after a period of economic crisis and return to stability.
Mr Kenny was speaking at the European Parliament in Strasbourg in a speech outlining Ireland's priorities for its six-month EU presidency.
He said the people of Ireland still laboured under the weight of bank-related debt and that austerity had brought pain and suffering to many families.
However, he added that Irish people had taken that pain with remarkable courage, patience and dignity.
He described unemployment as "the deepest hurt" and spoke of the danger of a generation growing up believing their political leaders had failed to give them a reasonable chance in life.
In relation to Northern Ireland, the Taoiseach said that small groups of disparate, unrepresentative trouble-makers will never succeed in bringing Northern Ireland and its people back to "that dark place".